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Title: With churches closed, more people are turning to prayer amid coronavirus uncertainty
Source: [None]
URL Source: [None]
Published: Apr 6, 2020
Author: Deena Yellin
Post Date: 2020-04-07 03:21:12 by Gatlin
Keywords: None
Views: 38

With churches closed, more people are turning
to prayer amid coronavirus uncertainty

On a typical Sunday, nearly 1,000 parishioners show up to one of four Masses held at St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge.

But now that church services have moved online due to the coronavirus crisis, the number of worshipers has grown. Last Sunday, more than 1,300 people tuned in to the Rev. Michael Sheehan's virtual service.

Other houses of worship around North Jersey are also reporting higher numbers at online prayer services and classes.

Father Sheehan isn't surprised.

"When you come up against the true fragility of life and it hits us in the face, we have to look for places where we find answers," he said last week. "I have the sense that people are slowing down. They are evaluating their lives and thinking about what's really important."

The spread of the coronavirus has upended not only the professional, educational and social lives of Americans, it's also influenced their religious behavior: 55% of all U.S. adults have prayed for the pandemic to end, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Evangelicals were the most likely to have prayed over the outbreak, at 82%, followed by Protestants at 76% and Catholics with 68%.

In addition, just over a third of those who don't identify with any particular religion, 15% who say they rarely or never pray and even 6% of self-described atheists have called on a higher power during the crisis, according to the study.

The renewed interest in prayer is particularly striking as most houses of worship have closed due to social-distancing mandates in recent weeks.

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky says he's observed increased attendance to online prayer services and Torah classes since his synagogue moved their operations online. Rabbi Jesse Olitzky says he's observed increased attendance to online prayer services and Torah classes since his synagogue moved their operations online. (Photo: Congregation Beth El)

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange has seen a surge in demand for online religious classes as well as daily and Shabbat prayer services, which have doubled in attendance.

"We are building a holy community through alternative options," he said. "For many of our congregants, the synagogue is their lifeline, their social network and friendship circle. For them to see each other's faces is an important and meaningful experience."

Some of the increased traffic can be attributed to the accessibility offered by technology, said Olitzky. But in a time of uncertainty people also need prayer and community more than ever, he added.

"We find comfort in each other," he said, "and in knowing that we aren't facing this future alone."

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